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Dr. Longworth Publishes Article on Milanese Funerary Sculpture

Art History Professor, Dr. Ellen Longsworth’s article “The Remarkable Tomb of Abbot Meli”, has been published online in Iconocrazia.

  • Image of the Arca di San Pietro Martire, a 14th century saint’s shrine that was mentioned in the contract for the “Meli Tomb” that the sculptor, Piatti, should use as a model.
    Photo taken by Ellen Longsworth

Iconocrazia is an Italian based, online publication that features articles written by various art historians on the subject of iconography. Dr. Longsworth’s work for Iconocrazia is part of a larger art history conference session organized by a colleague through the College Art Association to honor Art Historian Sara Lippert, who passed away suddenly in 2019.

The article examines the Arca dei Martiri Persiani, a tomb sculpture designed for Abbot Meli. Abbot Meli, was from a Franciscan monastery who did the unprecedented, when he had the bones of four martyrs buried alongside his own.These martyrs converted to Christianity and traveled from Persia to Rome to aid the Christians who were being persecuted. Unfortunately, they were tortured and eventually beheaded for their efforts. After their death, their bones were taken from Rome back to the monastery, where they sat for a few centuries until Abbot Meli designed his own tomb. Abbot Meli’s decision to bury both his and the martyrs bones together was an act of veneration and “that just wasn’t done,” Dr. Longsworth says. In the late 18th century the monastery of San Francesco was deprived of its authority and the tomb was disassembled.

In the second part of Dr. Longsworth’s the article, she centers on reconstructing what the tomb might have looked like based on Abbot Meli’s description in the contract drawn with the sculptor.

Dr. Longswoth’s interest in the study of Lombard, or Northern Italian Milanese tomb sculpture, began with her dissertation. “The study of funerary art from the late 14th century to the early 16th century in this area, no one—at least not in English—had ever put it into print, so it was something of an innovative study I guess you could say,” Dr. Longsworth notes. This particular article can be seen as a continuation of her dissertation work.

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